What exactly is the neotenization of society that began to become clear to me that night in the convertible next to Marcia riding Highway 75 through northern Georgia? There are human hubs perched within the social networking universe that connect to enough other human hubs that an idea can accelerate though them into the Internet night like a sports car at 5:00 a.m. In just that way, there are idea hubs that connect to and influence enough contiguous influential disciplines that understanding them illuminates the intellectual world like a sunrise at 5:01.

Neoteny is a biological principle that notes that changes in the rate and timing of maturation of individuals over time, generation to generation, influencing the evolutionary trajectory of a species when the characteristics of infants or features of early ontogeny are prolonged to appear later in ontogeny or in the adults of descendants. Draw the features of babies into older and older stages over time and you are neotenizing that ancestral chain. Pubertal timing is also an issue. For example, in humans, if you change the diet of children and encourage puberty to come later, you will often have adults with brains with more synapses and longer legs. …

Idea Tracking

September 30, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: Activism, Auto-Biography, Future, Society, Web

Lee Goodman has a talent for being present when my life takes a radical shift.  In high school, as we became close friends, Lee introduced me to the hippie protest movement.  In 2002, Lee brought me back into the protest movement when he invited me to a peace march in Northbrook.

Four days after returning from the United States Social Forum, Lee and I were in my living room discussing the commercial possibilities of an application my firm was developing when that underground aquifer of inspiration offered me a taste and then complete emersion of an idea.  Yet, it was more than an idea.  If felt like I was looking into a window of how the future would unfold.  Directly connected to the revelation in the convertible with Marcia earlier in the week, the idea was about interconnection, the neotenization of society, with an outline of specific features of the next step in the transformation of our species.  It hit me as Lee stood to leave to head back home.  I rose, my tongue between silence and stuttering as I watched him depart.  Later in the week, I called Lee to share the vision.

Integrated into the online campaigns being …

An Integration

September 29, 2008 | 2 Comments

Category: Activism, Auto-Biography, Web

Early in July of last year, Marcia and I were driving back from the United States Social Forum (USSF) in a rented convertible, top down, at night.  Stars out, wind whizzing by, Marcia sitting beside me, an integration hit me as if in a desert landscape it started pouring and isolated lakes were linked by river flows.  Connections between different sections of my life were made.

USSF was a powerful, positive, difficult experience.  Over the period of its several days, we made numerous presentations from our booth and conducted a workshop.  We talked about the Actions Options Tool (AOT) web application and the network of networks using the AOT for free that was quickly growing across the country.  I thought we were about three months away from being ready to introduce the unique new features we were presenting at the conference, such as SNAPAP (see previous entry).

A number of organizations and individuals expressed interest in either the programming or the statewide networks going up that were using the programming.  We met and talked with national organizations, international organizations and local activists.  It was exciting, interesting and exhausting.  It had been a long time since I’d felt that immersed.

Ten …

PJEP and Social Networking

September 28, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, PJEP, Web

We’re two and a half years into a project that should have its first stage completed by about July1, 2009.  The Peace, Justice and Environment Project (PJEP) began with a single network of organizations in Illinois. Sixty-six organizations voted to participate in the Illinois Coalition for Peace and Justice (later to become the Illinois Coalition for Justice, Peace and the Environment) on April 1, 2006.  It was at that event that the Actions Options Tool (actionsoptions.org) web application was introduced.  At that time, it was just the Actions Grid (see http://icjpe.org/actions), a petition function and a communications message center.

Over the last two years, four online actions centers have been enhanced or added.  Participating organizations can now create online petitions, boycotts, eletters and fundraisers.  A robust resources library holds hundreds of documents.  The calendar reveals actions, events, meetings and projects across a state.

At this time, 32 states have been integrated into a national network of networks, with almost 1,000 participating organizations.  The national site, http://www.pjep.org, is being developed to present an overview of actions, petitions, boycotts, eletters and fundraisers across the country that are searchable by speed, depth, breadth and geographic span.  Activists seeking to …

Online Spring

September 27, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Society, Web

Until now politics has been separated from our personal lives.  On the day we vote, there is an intersection that feels empowering to many people.  For most, that intersection has been enough.  Many people do not vote.  Many that do vote do not feel empowered or part of the process.  Activists engage in a process to achieve social and political change.  Many activists feel they are not empowered.

In this country, for many, there has been a deep disconnect between the management of government, the economy and society on one hand and an individual experience that he or she can influence those institutions.  The media make a clear and lasting contribution to an experience that the individual cannot make a difference.  It does so in several ways.  The media make few attempts to present root causes of situations, which would provide an opportunity for observers to hypothesize solutions.  The media emphasize the priorities of advertisers and their mission to sell products over the need of an educated electorate that can make informed decisions.  The media and politicians flatter the status quo rather than suggest that with knowledge and understanding, informed individuals can have the leverage to create change.

Observing that …

Friendster appeared and evolved into My Space and another variation, Facebook. Other forms are emerging and filling different niches. Linkses serves the business community. Change.org enhances the nonprofit world and empowers the individual seeking change. Google is seeking to create universal social networking software. Social networking variations are appearing overseas.

It is one of those unique moments not unlike when dinosaurs evolved feathers or when humans began to sing. Social networking has the potential to transform culture in several complementing ways, quickly, in a fashion that allows for deft adjustments to a changing environment.

First, it’s cheap. Second, it’s easy. Third, it encourages participation by those with time, rather than by those with money or resources. Entry level facility can be developed in minutes.

Anyone with specific interests can find others of similar inclination, empowering both by their being members of a group. Human hubs with many connections can thrive in an environment that exhibits this characteristic and offers ways to exercise the gift. The creative can share their creations. The shy can reveal the inner self. The curious can explore. Leaders can lead. The technologists can construct and modify.

Where is this networking headed?

Prepare for a cascade.

Power …

Autism researchers such as Simon Baron-Cohen have noted a pattern. The mother’s testosterone levels influence the likelihood of a child having autism. The higher the mother’s testosterone level, the more possible the child will be autistic. The work of the late Norman Geschwin in the early 1980s paved the way for this understanding. Still, the context in which the mother’s testosterone level makes sense is still not pursued by researchers seeking to understand the origins of autism. Neither Baron-Cohen nor Geschwin have backgrounds in evolutionary biology, which might have provided them an introduction to arcane nineteenth century alternative theories of evolution. We all suffer the effects of a century of obsession with Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

One of the patterns that a commitment to natural selection masks is that evolution can happen extremely quickly, in a single lifetime. Darwin was aware of single-generational change and struggled for an explanatory principle. He called his theory pangenesis. According to pangenesis, the body manufactures gemmules that can carry information informing the body of environmental change, which the body responds to, modifying progeny in response.

We call them hormones.

We live in a post-Mendelian age. When a cloned sheep emerges from the mother …

Blind Spots

September 24, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Autism & Society, Society

There is a principle in hypnosis that suggests that a patient’s ability to achieve a targeted change is enhanced when the patient is unaware of the details of the intervention.

The hypnotherapist is not trying to hide anything from the unconscious. It is through the therapist’s forming a pact with the unconsciousness that the change is engaged. The hypnotherapist is hiding what is happening from the client’s conscious mind.

The targeted change is further encouraged if the patient does not notice that a change has taken place.

American conservatism is chock-full of blind spots. With media reflecting and promoting the agenda of corporations, which form an important pillar of the conservative tribunal (corporations, neo-cons, social conservatives), media do not focus on the problems that many in society would like to change. The Left notices. Society, in a sense, has hauled itself to the hypnotherapist. The therapist has put society into a trance. Media, or what society is aware of, are asleep and deeply focused elsewhere.

Massive changes are underway, changes that are connected, and it is important that we not notice these changes.

Twenty-five countries in Western and Eastern Europe are closely uniting into an integrated whole providing health care, …

News Worthless

September 23, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Society

As an activist, I experience a kind of love/hate relationship with the news.  I am both attracted and repulsed by what appears through the various avenues of information distribution.

The news drives protesters into the street.  Protests draw cameras.  What cameras see affect public opinion.  Public opinion can change an elected official’s vote.

I am attracted to the news because it offers organizers leverage to frame debates and compel the population to get involved.  Modern organizing is partially about lists and relationships.  Email lists provide access to many people at one time.  Social networking–real time and online–drives friends and colleagues to respond to a single event at once.  A news story can be the beginning of a chain of powerful connections over time that, when strung together, create a movement of people creating change.

A news story is not just about the response it causes and the change that it can help bring about.  The story is also about the relationships created between activists that will form the foundation for future action around future items in the news.

An organizer watches and listens closely to the news, observing the response of media and allies to the news, intuiting what will …

This last week we observed repercussions of a clash between a quickly integrating world and a financial elite seeking to enhance its wealth and power by legislating minimal regulation with no transparency. Corporations wished to experience no accountability by their behavior. The result, in this new integrated world, is the beginning of the end of American Capitalism.

What happened between Monday and Friday of last week happened over many months earlier in this century. On Monday, the elites realized that by creating financial vehicles whose sole purpose was to generate exponential wealth, they had manufactured a mythology that had crashed. By Friday a run on 3.4 trillion dollars of money market funds had begun, the equivalent to the savings deposits withdrawal dynamic that occurred in the 1930s. The Government decided to do what governments do – shield the interests of private institutions – to protect the corporations whose behaviors were destroying savings.

The integration of the financial world has exponentially decreased the time that the crises of confidence had spread across the planet. It is now understood that with no transparency, regulation or accountability the elites had created fictitious wealth and hid the location of fiction in the system.

It …

Healthy Business

September 21, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography, Society

Starting in 1980, I began building a sales firm specializing in greeting cards, calendars and gifts.  It was one of those accidents of profession.  Seeking to make a living as an illustrator, I was working part-time as a vegetarian cook, as an assistant to a teacher working with autistic youth and as a child day care worker.  I’d published a selection of my illustrated maps of consciousness as greeting cards and placed them in 20 shops around Chicago the first month I carried them around.  Other small greeting card companies asked me to carry their lines with mine when making presentations.  With time, I was paying my bills by selling the works of other illustrators, in the form of greeting cards.

I have no gift of gab or compulsion to talk to strangers.  My success in sales was predicated almost entirely on persistence.  I don’t easily give up.

By 1990, most of my income was based on the sales of The Far Side page-a-day calendar to national chains located in Illinois, such as Walgreens, OSCO, Sears and Montgomery Ward.  One product in one of my lines was allowing me to pursue interesting creative projects.  In the 1990s, my wife and …

Watching TV and observing media, one notes that different ideals of beauty are exposed. From the orientation of social-structure representatives of the two primary paradigms, media offer a unique perspective of matrifocal and patrifocal beauty points of view.

Neoteny is physically represented in specific facial features. A matrifocal social structure encourages the selection of males exhibiting neotenous characteristics, which would include smaller jaw, bigger eyes and possibly a more lanky build. The male would be altogether more gracile than robust. Females would tend to be less neotenous than their patrifocal counterparts, with a more square jaw and stocky presence.

In a patrifocal social structure, macho men are choosing demure women for their neotenous tendencies. Western female beauty frames are engaged. The woman has smaller jaws, seemingly bigger eyes, a more petite frame and features of the young. Blonde hair and blue eyes are often characteristics of infants that fade with time. As a neotenous feature, blue-eyed blondes are classic patrifocal female beauty markers. But for hair and eye color, Asian females exhibit many of the features of a beautiful patriarchal woman. The classic handsome patrifocal man has a square jaw and robust build, which are non-neotenous characteristics.

Media expose us …

I use an image to explain the relationship between different activists’ intervention philosophies. The image is the teeter-totter. On both the left and right, political activists engage tactics that are part of strategies for change. They seek to move the center, the status quo, the conventions of society located in the present, in the direction of the past or the future. The Right seeks that we withdraw to behaviors society threatens to abandon. The Left works to seek to achieve changes that have not yet been engaged.

At present, with the Right in America having so successfully brought things backward eighty years or more, what with the dramatic increase of stratification and corporate control, it seems like the Left is seeking to go backward to the 1970s when there was some obvious forward movement. Right backward. Left forward. However far back the Right succeeds in pushing back conventions, the Left keeps seeking to place its weight on the teeter-totter in a way that changes the center of gravity, forcing the center to move in the Left’s direction, forward in time.

This competition is a might confusing because our societal convention has time marching from left to right as we read …

Withdrawing to the Sky

September 18, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Society, Web

Natural selection encouraged the transformation of dinosaurs into birds.  Though much attention in this age of Neo-Social Darwinism focuses on how natural selection makes it possible for the strongest to survive, it is often some other feature (speed, small size, agility, cleverness) that natural selection chooses if the feature serves to keep the individual alive until he or she can procreate.

There is that myth that mammals took over from the dinosaurs after the asteroid impact filled the air with debris that blocked out the sun.  The story has changed.  After the impact, the dinosaurs took to the sky that killed the plants that fed their larger brethren.  Unable to easily rule the earth, birds became kings and queens of heaven.

A huge maple tree in our back yard is slowly losing a major limb.  A twelve-foot crack running parallel to the horizontal appendage threatens to crack the branch and topple it into our neighbor’s yard.  Eventually, the big trees fall.  When they do, other life can emerge.  Little grows in our back yard because the shade created by this tree is so dense.  When it goes, I will grow strawberries.

There is a place for corporations in our lives …

Imagine the evening news and the productions of our media as the dreams emerging from a troubled patient or the myths that linger around a culture in distress. I’ve considered that the tools of comparative religion might serve best to parse the meaning of these cultural constructions, but it feels like a societal perspective provides more play. Ad agencies make commercials, production companies create shows and political observers/editors design the news. Produced by these institutions of enterprise, the product feels like the fever dreams of corporations lying half asleep in a sweaty bed after overeating.

Pace and lead is the foundation of psychotherapy, salesmanship and communication theory. To establish rapport and provide guidance, it is necessary to mirror or reflect the target’s behavior and beliefs until the person trusts that they are understood. Once the person believes what the practitioner is saying, because the practitioner is saying what the target believes, that target can be guided to what the practitioner wishes the target to understand. The practitioner can be acting in the best interests of a patient when a psychotherapist practices pace and lead. The practitioner might not care what is in the best interests of a consumer if it’s …

The Myth of News

September 16, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Myth/Story, Society

Jung wrote extensively on the relationship between myth and culture and how that relationship reveals a dynamic similar to the association between dream and the individual.  Joseph Campbell offered four primary purposes of myth.  Researchers have posited many ways that dreams keep us healthy.  It has been suggested that dream and myth are but stories along a single continuum, not unlike the continuum of practitioners seeking to interpret these stories, arcing from counselor to psychotherapist to spiritual guide.

Our times are not characterized by the sharing of universal myths, though some do surface during holidays.  Our culture is becoming powerfully informed by a universality of story, compelling “news” that commands the airwaves for days or months.  In just the way that dreams reveal, wrestle with and heal the divisions that emerge while experiencing life, these media stories act as windows for interpreters to view the forces that society is seeking to face, assimilate and transcend.

A therapist does not live with the person whose dreams are being interpreted.  The practitioner addresses the client’s distress from a position or context somewhat removed, with clear boundaries.  There is a suggestion that when interpreting the news or stories broadcast by the media, the …

In ancient cultures across the world, there are myths describing a time when women controlled society with a magic more powerful than men’s. These stories go on to describe that there is a loss of the women’s power. Yet the stories also express that there still remains an awesome strength tied to female menstruation; the monthly moon blood is to be feared and respected.

Not unlike the experience of traveling to little-visited, far-flung corners of the earth and finding surprisingly similar myths describing origins of local culture; we find ourselves filled with a similar wonder upon traveling to little-visited academic sub-disciplines. Just as two far-apart aboriginal cultures might have no contact with each other, the heterochronic practitioners of evolutionary biology have little traffic with the neuropsychological theorists who may be located less than a hundred yards away in another building on the same campus. Strangely, we find these different scientists discussing identical processes in different terminologies with almost no published awareness that they have much in common.

How might two different scientific disciplines be discussing the same natural dynamic and not know it, like two aboriginal societies fearing menstrual blood half a world apart, unaware of another culture with the …

Wind

September 14, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Ouroboros, Unconscious

Watching the wind stir leaves and branches as it flows around and through the trees, I often wonder what conclusions we could come to if we could not feel the wind.  It would be clear that something was influencing the movement.  We might conclude that all the leaves and limbs somehow know to respond together, motivated by an identical impulse.  Because branches have no muscles, we would posit that a force was in play that we could not see or feel.

It is impolitic among academics to suggest that evolution evidences an awareness that connects and encourages the existence and behaviors of species across the planet.  We still suffer the repercussions of an interventionist deity that demands that society conform to his alpha male point of view.  We’re throwing out the messiah baby with the Abrahamic bathwater, not having stopped to notice the baby is a girl.  We’re committing female deity infanticide.  All to make absolutely sure that myth and science don’t mix.  Reasonable.  Beside the point.  There are the Eastern myth-less studies of awareness.

Imagine that awareness informs biological, societal and personal evolution.  The paradox I come back to is how is it that evolution unfolds in a manner …

Sasha the cat lived with us five years.  Five years of allergy hell for me.  Five years of furry heaven for my wife.  Sasha seemed thimble-sized when she arrived.  She was billed as hypoallergenic.  Not so.  Even when she was teeny, she had me wheezing.

It was maybe a year before we realized that Sasha thought she was a squirrel.  The neighbors had dogs, so she wasn’t too inclined to go exploring much past our little cement back yard, where she might have met others of her kind.  So, watching out the windows, she saw squirrels.  Wandering about the back yard, she saw squirrels.  And, as noted in the previous entry, it was not infrequent that she happened upon squirrels inside the house.  Squirrels were everywhere.  And so on occasions, Sasha would be seen gamboling back and forth across horizontal branches in the front or back yard, as she’d watched the squirrels do.

We noticed that the squirrels were growing familiar with Sasha.  I’d interpreted Sasha’s hiding and then pouncing on the squirrels as evidence of predatory behavior.  Yet, the squirrels always got away.  Slowly, I realized she was playing.  The squirrels understood.  Eventually, Sasha would sit and watch the …

Squirrel Story

September 12, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography, Play

I’m a squirrel trainer.  I don’t do this work professionally, which is a good thing, because I’m not a very good squirrel trainer.  But because I have little competition, this fact seems not to have mattered.  I began this avocation fifteen years ago when I grew intimate with Amber and Chunky, two squirrels that thrived on my block in Chicago.  Amber grew tame with time and eventually ate peanuts out of my hand.  The kids thought this was pretty nifty.  I put more attention into it.  Amber and Chunky eventually came when I whistled.  When Amber had babies, she brought them to our yard and introduced us.  The kids and I took to keeping all the neighbor cats out of our yard to keep the baby squirrels safe.  It was fun to see Amber swinging through a tree.  I’d whistle from the 3rd floor and watch her swing her head around to where I’d be leaning out a window.  She would make her way toward us, where I’d throw her a peanut, and she’d catch it.

We had to move from that house, taking up residence in the middle unit of an ancient British-style, five-unit row house with no air …

Everyday Neoteny

September 11, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography, Neoteny, Play

When I was a kid, my mom worked part-time in the local toy store, Wienecke’s.  I would stop there on the way home from school.  In the early grades, I’d stop and look at dinosaurs, seeking new ones to add to my collection.  Wienecke’s had a chemistry supply department.  When I was in sixth grade, the toy store ladies wondered at what experiments I was conducting that required so much saltpeter, sulfur and carbon.  I had a bomb-making laboratory in my basement. Creative ways to make loud noises was all the craze among my friends.  I was a poor chemist.  An arms manufacturer or terrorist I would not be.

I dreamed of when I would be old enough to work at the toy store as the gopher fix-it boy whose job it was to put together tricycles and wagons, run up and down the stairs and price inventory.  Finally, I achieved 16 and was offered the job after passing the grilling by the store matron, Ruth.  It was 1968.

My mom had been placed in a mental institution for a third time for manic-depression.  My parents’ divorce began.  The playful part of my personality was subdued.  One of the two …

Aware Aware

September 10, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Biology, Play, Society, Unconscious

In psychotherapeutic dynamics, attention offered to the presenting problem goes a long way toward providing an opportunity for the problem to transform.  Clients or patients are guided into an experience of accompanying themselves rather than engaging in a battle.  A paradox is revealed.  It could be concluded that the “problem” was not the person’s unconscious, but their conscious.  Once the patients deliberately choose to not confront or battle the part of them that they feel victimized by, but just let themselves be aware of that part, change is engaged.  The clients learn they can exercise choice.  Then, the clients learn to play.

The same principle is in play on the spiritual path.  Practitioners are provided opportunities to choose to observe rather than engage.  Students are encouraged to be watchful.  If there is struggle, there is the choice to be aware of the struggle.  An emphasis is placed on the ability to choose and the choice to choose to be aware.

Awareness is integral to an understanding of psychological and spiritual models of transformation.  It is also a major factor in social change.

The activist compulsion to bring media to an event is about bringing awareness of an issue to individuals …

Media Attention

September 9, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: Activism, Auto-Biography

Activists crave cameras.  It just sort of goes with the territory when seeking social change.  Publicity moves public opinion.  Public opinion informs the behavior of elected officials.

This Memorial Day there were five television stations on hand to observe the services for the fallen, hosted by Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War.  Two years ago there were no cameras.  This year there were daily stories on military suicides as May was coming to an end.  Two of the speakers at the event were parents of children that died in the military.  Both parents had been told their child died because of suicide.  In both cases there was evidence the military was lying.

On August 18, 2005, Cindy Sheehan worked with Moveon to create a nationwide anti-war vigil.  Dickelle Fonda and I worked together to create a powerful Evanston event.  Dickelle received permission from the city.  I contacted and recontacted the press, using Moveon’s online tools.  Observing on the Moveon website that the number of Evanston residents planning to attend was growing larger than any vigil in the country, I transmitted advisories touting the numbers to the media.  Four cameras recorded over 600 people gathering in the square.  …

Gap

September 8, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Society, Web

There are fairly obvious differences between the young folks and my contemporaries, differences that seem far deeper than the dissimilarities between generations in the past.

This comes to mind as I seek facilitators for the Peace, Justice & Environment Project, activists that work with activists around the country.  I find myself compelled to look for people that I have met in person.  I find it hard to feel certain that I know someone unless I’ve watched emotions play across their face while listening to their voice.  On more than one occasion, going by voice only, because I’ve only been in contact over the phone, I’ve asked a person to join our project as a facilitator.  They came aboard, but no real cementing of relationship occurred, and the verbal commitment was not reflected in congruence of behavior.

I’m wondering if this preference for face-to-face communication is an archaic characteristic of my generation.  We older folks have trouble trusting what’s not flesh and blood.  I’m observing that younger people find it easier to form relationships over phones, and of course, through the web.  Is it possible they have heightened sensibilities when it comes to detecting the subtle cues that come with nonflesh/blood …

Source of Interest

September 7, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

A dentist that collects scrimshaw, antique carved whale teeth, seems to have a reasonable passion, considering his profession.  A politician that loves reading books on history in his spare time makes sense.  What is interesting me at this moment is how, where and when interests surface that bear no obvious relationship to the life in which the passion interrupts.

It interests me what interests me.  I’m curious about what makes us curious.

On Tuesday, eating my cereal, preparing to drive the mile to where my doctor practices to get my yearly check-up a year late, the phone rang.

(If a doctor only practices, what kind of medical person engages in the actual main event of healing?)

The person at the other end said he was Paul Jean’s stepfather.  I thought it was Paul goofing because the Georgia accent sounded like his.

“Hi, Paul! How are you doing?” I excitedly greeted the caller.  I hadn’t talked with Paul since last summer.

“No, this is not Paul.  This is Paul’s stepfather.  Paul died a month ago.  We just now found you through the web.”

Paul was my first close friend.  We were inseparable starting in sixth grade through junior high.  Grown up, …